Terry Martin, CRNA, of Bolivar, Mo., has two goals in organizing the first “Terry Fox
Run Missouri” on Sept. 28 in Bolivar—to honor the legacy of his hero and to raise money for cancer research.
Martin was born with spina bifida, a congenital disorder where the vertebrae of the spinal cord are not fully formed. People with the condition usually exhibit leg weakness and paralysis or other orthopedic abnormalities.
“I’ve always considered myself one of the fortunate ones,” said Martin, whose condition didn’t begin to affect him until he was 7 years old. As he grew older, Martin required more frequent surgeries—usually one every nine months to reset certain bones.
“Most of them were orthopedic surgeries,” he said. He knew that, because of the nature of spina bifida, he would most likely have to have part of his leg removed.
“When I was 17, I knew it would happen eventually,” said Martin, now 51 and having undergone 27 surgeries. When he graduated high school in 1980, he tuned into the local news and saw coverage of 21-year-old Terry Fox, a Canadian who had to have his leg amputated due to bone cancer. Fox began running a marathon a day—26 miles—in an attempt to traverse all of Canada and raise money for cancer research.
“I started following him as much as [the news] could cover it,” said Martin. “I became enthralled with him and what he was trying to do.”
Fox had run 3,339 miles in 143 days in an attempt to raise $1 million when he discovered his cancer had spread to his lungs. He died June 28, 1981—Martin’s 18th birthday.
Fox continued to serve as an inspiration for Martin as he faced his own continuing hardships, a Syme’s amputation that removed his left foot to the heel and a transmetatarsal amputation that removed most of the toes on his right foot.
“It doesn’t slow me down,” he said. It wasn’t until after the birth of Martin’s three children, and his educating them about Fox, that he felt he should do more to participate in the “Marathon of Hope.”
Since Fox’s passing, cancer runs in his name have been organized around the world, from Abu Dhabi to Shanghai.
“It just started weighing on me,” said Martin. “There’s never been a Terry Fox Run in Missouri.”
He contacted the Terry Fox Foundation in January 2013 about the possibility of creating a run in his state. He spoke to the woman from the foundation on the phone and explained how much of an inspiration Fox was to him and what he wanted to accomplish with the run. A month later, he received a packet of information about starting up the run along with a hand-written note from the woman on the phone. It said Martin would be an inspiration to his children like Fox had been an inspiration to him. The note was signed “Judy Fox-Adler,” Terry Fox’s sister.
So far, Martin has had nothing but smooth sailing for the Terry Fox Run Missouri. Southwest Baptist University donated the use of its stadium for the event. Martin’s friend, the cardiologist at the hospital where he works, is also the mayor of Bolivar, and has told Martin he’ll have whatever he needs.
“Everything has fallen into place,” said Martin. In accordance with the Terry Fox Foundation, no entry fee will be assessed and no prizes awarded. The event will not be timed, and all donations will go to a local charity. Martin selected Cancer Research for the Ozarks as the recipient.
“They’re just more than excited,” said Martin. He has no goals for how many people he’d like to show up or how much money to raise. His aim is to educate a new generation about Fox’s message while contributing in some way to the foundation’s total of more than $500 million raised to fund cancer research.
“I want people to know how much he inspired me,” said Martin. “I plan on doing this every year until I can’t do it anymore.”